Monday, December 31, 2007

Asian American Poetry Triple Header: January 25th!

On January 25th at the Loft Literary Center (1011 Washington Avenue S., Minneapolis) join us for a unique reading as California-based poet Lee Herrick joins Twin Cities poets Sun Yung Shin and Bryan Thao Worra for a one-night-only performance!

Each will present incredible work from their 2007 debut collections of poetry!

The event is free and there will be food and refreshments, door prizes and a chance to meet the authors:

Lee Herrick was born in Seoul, South Korea and adopted at eleven months. He is the author of This Many Miles from Desire.

His poems have been published in the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Berkeley Poetry Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Many Mountains Moving, The Bloomsbury Review, MiPOesias, and others, including anthologies such as Seeds from a Silent Tree: Writings by Korean Adoptees, Hurricane Blues: Poems About Katrina and Rita. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a 2000 Los Angeles Poetry Festival Award finalist.

In Skirt Full of Black, Sun Yung Shin employs the techniques of investigative poetry and collage to craft a nuanced, unique language for navigating the politics of gender, ethnicity, and identity. As she spins new myths from Christian and Buddhist traditions and bestows new connotations upon the characters of the Korean alphabet, she gives voice to the spiritual and cultural hunger of those caught between the two.

Bryan Thao Worra's On The Other Side Of The Eye is the first book of Laotian American speculative poetry and is a journey to the hidden edges of the universe and the human soul, examining secret wars and ancient kingdoms, myth, history, science and dreams, drawing on over 17 years of his work that has appeared internationally.

We hope you'll join us for this unique event!

Friday, December 21, 2007

AvPvTvR: A Hypothetical Mockup

From the department of: "I've got a little time on my hands" comes the hypothetical imagining of what would happen if we finally got that ultimate mash-up between Aliens vs. Predator vs. Terminator vs Robocop.

Functionally impossible because of conflicting licenses and things like that, but I should note we've historically debated Aliens vs. Predator for nearly 20 years since the first Dark Horse Comics mini-series and likewise Terminator vs. Robocop.

Of these franchises, Aliens vs. Predator has a surprising amount of longevity given the source material.

But as a craft exercise, let's see how it might work out:

I'll make the argument that for this story, the setting would take place in New Detroit, the historic home of Robocop and Omnicorp. We'll throw in a possible take-over attempt by Weyland-Yutani, the primary corporation of the Aliens/Predator mythos.

Historically, Cyberdyne and Cyber Research Systems Division have historically been credited with the research and creation that leads to Skynet and the creation of the Terminators.

However, with time travel and alternate futures being a major part of Terminator physics you can pretty much revise the future any way you see fit, including a way to make the historic Frank Miller version close to the canon truth for now: that Skynet gained intelligence by interacting with the Omnicorp product, Robocop.

Presently, we have many interesting and plausible scenarios to work with but presumably we should consider: What will give us the most bang for our buck: Lots of Predators, lots of Aliens, lots of Terminators and using Robocop, then?

From the precedents established in both Predator 2 and Aliens Vs. Predator, the Predators regularly use eggs from an Alien queen to seed selected planets for hunting grounds.

Bringing them all to New Detroit is no problem then. And therefore, a chance for Robocop to try and maintain order.

A fun and plausible scenario for introducing the Terminators is where it can become a challenge.

The two most likely options are pretty obvious: Give Terminators a reason to go back in time, or else demonstrate a prototype Terminator.

Of the two, I prefer the prototype Terminator route.

Before we get too far into this, we should note that many elements of this have already been proposed by fans such as:

We could REALLY have fun presenting the Terminator T-100s as a series originally planned to culminate in the Nexus 6 line, until the technology gleaned from the Predators demonstrates effective research routes to the T-1000 and beyond.

But that's pushing it.

The prototype Terminator model could be getting introduced as a way for Omnicorp and their new Cyberdyne partners to prevent a hostile Weyland-Yutani takeover.

Designed to be a less off-putting, public-relations friendly version of the Robocop concept, the Terminators human appearance has an unexpected advantage: They can be effective lures for Aliens and Predators alike because the lifelike, human appearance of the Terminators registers with enough verisimilitude that they present interesting and provocative targets.

Whereas, Robocop clearly registers as just a machine the Predators would have no interest in.

But an interesting issue may emerge that the Terminators are predominantly guided by inhuman AI priorities, and that by the conclusion of this story, as New Detroit is being overrun by Predators and Aliens and Terminators with a ruthless 'victory at any cost' policy of even shooting through, say, civilians, that Robocops become necessary because while cyborgs, they still maintain enough humanity and compassion for humans that they might be able to accomplish what the Terminators are failing to do.

And solve the current infestation problem.

And you might even see people volunteering to become robocops as the only effective way to counter them all. Which is really where the Robocop concept needs to be taken - we've already explored themes of forced inhumanity and the reassertion / indomitability of the human spirit / soul, memories, etc. But the question needs to be asked, what would happen if a situation arose where people must confront and volunteer for inhumanity?

Interesting issues to ponder for a Holiday weekend. :)

Oh, don't give me that look. :)
At least I didn't put in a Beverly Hills Cop Axl Foley returns home subplot. :)

Or to find a way to bring in the Batman/Superman vs. Predator/Aliens stories that have been done already, or bringing up the Batman vs. Punisher crossover that would then open us up to a thought of Archie vs. Aliens vs. Predator vs. the Punisher from back when the Punisher met Archie.

TRA Jukebox, Christmas 07 Edition.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rellics Of Quantum Physics

Schroedinger's Fridge.
It's been examined before, but it's still fun:
Until the fridge is opened, whether the food has spoiled or not is indeterminate! The problem is that the wavefunction doesn't collapse no matter how much we observe. :(

On Monsters

"Monsters are tragic beings; they are born too tall, too strong, too heavy, they are not evil by choice. That is their tragedy": —Ishiro Honda, film director for Toho, most famous for creating Godzilla.

Recommended Watching For On The Other Side Of The Eye

To say cinema has an influence on On The Other Side Of The Eye would be an extreme understatement. To list all of the films that are alluded to or inform On The Other Side Of The Eye would take volumes.

To keep it manageable, here's a short list of films and some clips scattered around youtube that will speak to some of what we're going on about.

Ridley Scott's Blade Runner: Blade Runner will get a whole separate and long-overdue post in itself in a matter of days, especially with the release of the Final Cut on December 18th.

But for the purposes of understanding its relationship to On The Other Side Of The Eye I would suggest considering:
  • The concepts of Cityspeak, the amalgam of global languages that has become commonplace in the future of Blade Runner.
  • Director Ridley Scott's technique of layering to near obsessive detail that leaves something new for you to discover every time you watch it.
  • Themes of memory, dreams, love, the environment and the pursuit of 'a chance to begin again' that ultimately boils down to a search, not necessarily for immortality but just "more" life.
  • Themes of vision, displacement and juxtaposition.
  • Ideas of retrofitting, attaching the new to the old.

And many more.

From a craft point of view there are problems with Blade Runner's script and logic but these are easily, easily overlooked against the greater poetry presented before us. But as I said, a longer post will emerge soon enough on Blade Runner. Let's take a look at a few others.

Akira Kurosawa's Dreams. Like Don Quixote, Akira Kurosawa's Dreams is a film that should be watched and seen at many points in your life because like all truly great art it changes for the audience as they grow older. And to be honest, I love all of the dreams in this film.

But I also find something truly maginifcent in his "Village of the Watermills," that as an audience member reminds me how good it is it to be alive, and as an artist how we can speak of important things simply and in a way that gives hope.

Kurosawa's Rashomon is also an importance influence due to issues of perepective and multiple vantage points and a concern with the truth:

Peter Greenaway's loving tribute to William Shakespeare, Prospero's Books, with Sir John Gielgud is also a strong influence, a love letter not only to the Bard, but to all literature and the truly magical things of the world- hope, love, family, dreams, art. Maddeningly difficult to find for years on DVD, it seems it will soon be available for us all to see in its full glory.

Godzilla films naturally also have their say within the text of On The Other Side Of The Eye. I'll be writing at particular length on the impact and themes I find interesting in the series and the genre later on this month as well.

Heretical as it may sound, I'll throw in a nod to Tim Burton's Mars Attacks!:

We'll discuss a few more influnces in the coming months ahead, both the serious and the guilty pleasures.

Recommended Reading For On The Other Side Of The Eye

Back during Dennis O'Neil's run on the DC Comics title The Question, he always used to include a book each month under the heading "Recommended Reading" which ranged from philosophy to crime fiction and other books.

These weren't essential to understanding a particular month's story, but at the same time were interesting and over the larger course of the series' run, could add to your appreciation of the ideas in play there.

Hundreds of books, films, albums, discussions and experiences inform On The Other Side Of The Eye and perhaps one day I'll do a complete annotation, but for now I thought I'd provide a bakers dozen of 13 or so authors for an example. In no particular order:

The Book of Stratagems: Tactics for Triumph and Survival by Harro von Senger was an interesting approach to discussing the classic 36 Stratagems of Asian philosophy with a dizzying array of historical and legendary examples that are just as interesting as Sun Tzu's classic, Art of War. I'll let audiences decide how and where some, if any, of these ideas were applied in the structure and approach of the On The Other Side Of The Eye.

Joseph Campbell's Power Of Myth has its detractors but the intent to see the amazing ability of stories, of legends and ideas to speak to a culture deeply are relevant and worth engaging with.

Paul Reps Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is a classic of Zen and Asian stories and aphorisms that are designed to shake us out of our perceptions of the everyday andd the ordinary to see the world differently.

Adrienne Su's Middle Kingdom. Middle Kingdom gives me a lot to think about as an Asian American writer considering the way to compose a book of Laotian American poetry. There are many fine and readable poems within Middle Kingdom, with great humor and soul worth examining.

Khalil Gibran's The Madman. Gibran's classic The Prophet is nice, but I personally preferred the short, deep stories and anecdotes within this underappreciated classic of his.

The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre. One of the classic masters of horror, his cosmic approach was ground-breaking and his influence continues to speak to later generations long after his contemporaries have become unread.

Jorge Luis Borges Labyrinths and The Dictionary of Imaginary Beings. There are amazing ideas, thoughts and stories at play in both of these books and they are heavily influential on many of the works within On The Other Side Of The Eye in terms of structure, content and theme.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko The Face Behind The Face. Originally picked up for Yevtushenko's poem "People," one of three personal favorite poems of mine, there are many fine gems within this collection.

Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. Among the arcs that were particularly important to me from this master of the fantastic was Seasons of Mist, Brief Lives, Dream Country and The Doll's House.

Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum or Name Of The Rose. Intelligent and fascinating texts with surprising humor and brilliance, it can take years to unravel all of the topics and allusions Eco is covering, but it's rewarding.

Heather McHugh's Hinge and Sign, particularly her poem "What He Thought."

Yusef Komunyakaa's Talking Dirty To The Gods and Dien Cai Dau. I'm particularly fond of his "Ode To The Maggot" and "Facing It," but there is much to be responded throughout these two books of his.

I'll also name a few bands and musicians whose work I can reasonably cite as influences on the poems in On The Other Side Of The Eye:

Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Shriekback, Eurythmics, Oingo Boingo, The Talking Heads, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Siouxsie and the Banshees.

And of course, many, many others, but try these for a start.

Moments in Cinema: Sanjuro.

One of my favorite films is Sanjuro, particularly the near final lines after Toshiro Mifune's character has defeated his enemy, Muroto, one of the corrupt swordsmen of the film, who forces a reluctant Sanjuro to a final duel.

Sanjuro kills his adversary with a single stroke of 'exemplary' swordsmanship, stunning both for its lightning swiftness and its graphic gore. The young samurai who witness the duel run up to Sanjuro trying to congratulate him, but they are quickly rebuked:

"He was just like me, a naked blade. We're both swords out of our scabbards. But it's like the lady said: really good swords stay in scabbards."

On Hell

One day some students asked a venerated buddhist monk:
"Master, when you die, what will happen to you?"

"I will go to hell," the elder monk replied matter-of-factly.

"Go to hell? How can you say such a thing? You've led such a pure life!" the students protested.

"Hell is where they need me most," he replied.

Goodbye to Carolyn Bye

This week the Twin Cities had a chance to say goodbye to the legendary Carolyn Bye after 14 years as the head of the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. An amazing intelligence and spirt, Carolyn was an invaluable advocate and ally in building the arts community in the seven county metro area, and as artists in Minnesota we owe her immensely for helping to foster such a positive environment for our work.

The community gathered at the Red Eye Theatre on 15 West 14th Street in Minneapolis and naturally there were many stirring performances, including a guitar and flute duet by Don Eitel and Suzie Kunyoshi, a magnificent collaborative performance of Sonja Parks' "De will bend, don't break" read by Laurie Carlos and interpreted by dancer Roxane Wallace. Noah Bremer shared an exuberant piece entitled 'A man, a plant, a quest for joy,' and we heard from many exceptional leaders in the non-profit and arts community who were able to express the immense influence and joy Carolyn has brought to Minnesota in her time here.

So long, Carolyn, and thanks for everything!

And while we're at it, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council provides great support to artists and projects in Minnesota and they're a great resource worth checking out:

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Red Bamboo

Two artists were visiting each other and working on new landscapes. One colored the bamboo red.

"You should always use the color black for bamboo," the other critiqued.

"Have you ever seen black bamboo?" the artist replied, and went back to work.


Now firmly in the holiday season, it's as good a time as any to remember Festivus!

And yes, I do celebrate Festivus.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ed Lin Reviews OTOSOTE!

The amazing writer Ed Lin, author of the novels Waylaid and the new This Is A Bust, had a great review for On The Other Side Of The Eye. Thanks!

I hope he doesn't mind my reprinting it here! :)

"I've been reading this striking book over the past two months, every day on the train, making my way through the layers of writing and my own thoughts.

It's a remarkable collection, full of lonesome, searching and speculative songs as if Hank Williams contemplated Lovecraft instead of love.

Here's a perfect verse: "In two years, I don't believe I've said more/than a dozen words to my Khmer neighbors/in the apartment below me./That's just the way it is."

Here's a perfect line: "And what we have left to say could explode any minute."

There are many more perfect ones. There are many that are not.

Thao Worra gives it to you together to show you all that is broken and beautiful in this terrible world.

I strongly suggest you buy one here now."

A favorite quote of mine from Hokusai.

Written on his seventy fifth birthday:

From the age of six I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was fifty I had published a universe of designs. But all I have done before the the age of seventy is not worth bothering with. At seventy five I'll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am eighty you will see real progress. At ninety I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At a hundred I shall be a marvelous artist. At a hundred and ten everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign my self 'The Old Man Mad About Drawing.'

Among writers, how can we have any less passion for our craft?

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Thought On Resident Evil: Extinction

There's the classic Francis Ford Coppola moment when he shouts, Apocalypse Now isn't about Vietnam, it IS Vietnam.

Which seems a terrible thing to bring up when I think that Resident Evil: Extinction isn't a 'movie' about zombies, it IS the zombie.

It holds the distinction in my mind of being one of the bigger budget films that is not so much a film as a series of derivations, of moments cribbed from other far better movies ranging from Road Warrior to The Birds, to Dawn of the Dead, both versions!

In an effort to avoid giving this terrible film more brain cells than it deserves, I will keep this note short other than to say: A mindless, tediously lumbering assembly of cannibalized bits of once-good films you want to flee from in terror lest it get your brain.

My god, in a weird post-modern way, it's almost brilliant.

But somehow I doubt that was the serious intention of the crew and the studio at the time. On to better things:

Save yourself the trouble of watching this film and go read World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War, a far more entertaining book than just about any zombie film that's come out lately.